Frequently asked questions

Find your answers

Before writing to Greenpeace please check our list of frequently asked questions to see if your question is already answered.


Questions about the environment  
  • More on some of the detailed environmental questions we receive.

    How many different kinds of whales are there? Which ones are endangered?

    You can read all about whale species and the threats to them at the link below:

    Are whales fish?

    Whales are mammals, just like human beings. You can read about why this is an important difference at the link below.

    I'm a student writing a report about an environmental problem. Can you send me information?

    We get many requests at http://www.greenpeace.org for help with general school reports about pollution and other environmental issues. We wish we could help each of you individually, but we try to keep our staff focussed on the tasks that people donate to Greenpeace for: to win campaigns for the environment.

     

    I hope the following sources of information can point you in the right direction for help with your project:

    Click here for information about overfishing, whales, and threats to our ocean environment.

    Click here for information about Climate Change and Greenpeace's campaign to phase out fossil fuels.

    Click here for information about toxic chemicals and what you can do to help ban them.

    For information about the nuclear threat, including Star Wars, click here.

    Click here for information about Genetically Modified Organisms, and why we should all be worried about this massive uncontrolled experiment on nature.

    Click here for information about threats to the world's last remaining ancient forests.

    And don't forget that you can search through all the information at the Greenpeace site by going to our search page.

    I've just seen a stranded whale - what can I do?

    Whale strandings often end sadly because of well-intentioned but uninformed help. Flippers can be easily damaged by trying to move a whale back into the water. Whales can suffocate if their blowholes are obstructed. A whale on dry land's biggest danger is overheating: keep them cool and wet but DON'T obstruct the breathing through their blowhole. Get a qualified marine biologist to the scene as soon as possible. Call your nearest University or the Coast Guard for help.

     

    Greenpeace does not run a stranded whale rescue programme. We apply our limited resources to stopping the greatest threats to all whales: commercial whaling and the thinly disguised pirate whaling by the Japanese and Norwegian fleets.

    We wish we could help with every whale stranding, every case in which whales are in trouble anywhere in the world, but of course with our tiny fleet of four ships and little more than a thousand staff all over the world, we have to leave that job to other groups and other experts in local communities. Our role is to save the most whales we can by challenging the whalers on the high seas with our ships, to call the world's attention to the continued senseless killing, and to pressure the world's governments to create Whale Sanctuaries and better protection mechanisms through international law. Please visit our oceans web site to learn what else you can do.

    Where can I find tips on how to lead a greener life/ how to make a difference?

    We are all part of the environment and what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves. Take a look at Greenpeace Canada's "Living Green"
     

    There's an environmental polluter in my town: what can I do about it?

    In all but a few exceptional cases, Greenpeace works on a global scale and does not address individual pollution sites one by one. Greenpeace has limited resources and so chooses to focus on major threats to ecosystems and species -- we simply don't have the ability to address destruction at all levels. For local issues, we have to count on people like you who care and are willing to fight for what you believe. We can send you our support and best wishes, and advice on creating a community campaign from our colleagues at Greenpeace Australia

     

    We can encourage you to seek help and advice from our community of cyberactivists
    many of whom fight local battles against polluters in communities like yours. And we can offer you advice on how to run a campaign from one of our former colleagues.

    You can also search through the Greenpeace archive for information about the particular issue you're trying to solve.
    Good luck: there's No Time to Waste.

    I've just witnessed a horrible mistreatment of an animal. What can I do?

    Greenpeace doesn't address animal rights issues at a local level. We campaign for habitat protection and to stop the greatest threats to the natural world. You can contact the largest animal right's organisation in the world, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

     

    You can also join our thousands of cyberactivists on line to discuss the environment and related issues by going to our cyberactivist centre.

    Where can I find information for young people?

    You are never too young to make a difference in protecting our planet, and you are never too old to have fun! Visit our games page.

     

    Take a look at the animated story of whales and you can also dive with the whales!

    Learn more about how you can help save the ancient forests at our Kids for Forests website.

    If genetically engineered crops and harvests are open to wind and insects which pollinate flowers or plants,how do we know that "organic" foods aren't accidentally contaminated by genetically engineered foods, because g.e pollen have been deposited there without the distributor/grower knowing?

    We don't. We can't. This is precisely one of the dangers of releasing Genetically engineered plants in the wild. In some countries, there are restrictions on how closely genetically engineered crops have been allowed to be planted to normal crops, but there's no conclusive proof that these measures are effective. On the contrary, there's growing evidence that you simply can't segregate crops in the wild.

     

    Cross-breeding isn't the only threat to organic food presented by genetically engineered plants. A strain of corn has been created by Monsanto which produces its own pesticide. Unfortunately, the pesticide it produces is one of the only organic deterrents to insect infestations, and one commonly used by organic farmers. But as with antibiotics, the more prevelant a toxin the more likely organisms are to build up a resistance, and Bt Maize, as it's known, is likely to end the effectiveness of one of the few natural pesticides available to organic farmers.

Questions about Greenpeace campaigns  
  • Discover the answer to some of the most common questions about the issues we work on.

    Why is Greenpeace opposed to genetic engineering?

    Greenpeace opposes all releases of genetically Engineered organisms into the environment. Such organisms are being released without adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health.

    This genetic pollution is a major threat because genetically engineered organisms cannot be recalled once released into the environment. Governments are attempting to address this threat by international regulations such as the Biosafety Protocol.

    Because of commercial interests, the public is being denied the right to know about genetically engineered ingredients in the food chain, and the right to avoid them. Greenpeace advocates immediate interim measures such as labelling of genetically engineered ingredients, and the segregation of genetically engineered crops from conventional ones.

    While scientific progress on molecular biology has a great potential to increase our understanding of nature and provide new medical tools, it is no justification to turn the environment into a genetic experiment. Biological diversity must be protected and respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival.

    Greenpeace also opposes all patents on plants, animals and humans, as well as patents on their genes. Life is not an industrial commodity. When we force lifeforms and our world's food supply to conform to human economic models rather than their natural ones, we do so at our own peril.

    You can read an introduction to the issue of genetic engineering and an explanation of some of the risks in our genetic engineering area.

    The Star Wars Missile Defence system is about defending against nuclear weapons - isn't that a good thing? Why is Greenpeace opposed to it?

    Though the US government portrays Star Wars as purely defensive, key nuclear weapons nations such as China and Russia actually see it as an offensive initiative. They fear Star Wars would render their current nuclear arsenals obsolete; they would be unable to retaliate to a US nuclear attack. If Star Wars goes ahead they will feel compelled to increase their own arsenals as a counter measure.

    "The more improvements that are made to the shield, the more improvements are made to the sword. We think that with these [anti-missile ] systems, we are just going to spur swordmakers to intensify their efforts."
    French President Jacques Chirac.

    There are many reasons why the Missile Defence programme is a dangerous plan. You can read more about the threat of Star Wars by clicking on the link below:

    Isn't nuclear power better than burning lots of fossil fuels? Isn't it a solution for climate change?

    Nuclear power creates poisonous waste, fuels the nuclear arms race, and threatens the health and well being of communities thousands of miles away.

    It's also not a solution to greenhouse warming. Creating nuclear fuel is a hugely energy-intensive task. When you sum up the CO2 emitted by the mining, milling, processing, and transport of nuclear fuels, there's no significant savings on carbon output. This was why the framers of the Kyoto protocol rejected efforts by the nuclear power industry to allow carbon credits for nuclear power. You'll still see this fallacy trumpetted in advertising by the nuclear industry, but you won't find a reputable climate scientist who is convinced by the ads. (British Nuclear Fuels spends more on advertising than Greenpeace's entire annual budget, by the way!)

    You can read about all the reasons Greenpeace opposes nuclear power at our nuclear campaign section.

    Or learn more about clean energy at our climate website.

    I heard that Greenpeace is a bunch of "tree huggers" and is opposed to cutting down trees everywhere. Is this true?

    Greenpeace is concerned about protecting the greatest reservoirs of terrestrial biodiversity -- the last remaining ancient forests. We don't have any opposition to responsible, sustainable forestry practices outside those areas. Read more about our policies on forest protection in our forests section.
Questions about Greenpeace in general  
  • What is Greenpeace's mission? When did it get started? How many supporters does Greenpeace have? Plus many more answers!

    This is our mission:

    Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses nonviolent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity.

    How did Greenpeace get started?

    In 1971, motivated by their vision of a green and peaceful world, a small team of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada, in an old fishing boat.

     

    The founders of Greenpeace believed a few individuals could make a difference. Their mission was to "bear witness" to the USA's underground nuclear testing at Amchitka in one of the world's most earthquake-prone regions.

    A tiny island off the West Coast of Alaska, Amchitka was the last refuge for 3000 endangered sea otters, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other wildlife.

    Even though their old boat, the Phyllis Cormack, was intercepted before she got to Amchitka, the journey sparked a flurry of public interest. The US still detonated their bomb, but the voice of reason had been heard.

    Nuclear testing on Amchitka ended that same year, and the island was later declared a bird sanctuary.

    Today, Greenpeace is a global organisation that gives priority to campaigns that can be addressed on a global scale. Based in Amsterdam, Greenpeace has 2.8 million supporters worldwide, and national/regional offices in 41 countries.

    You can find out more about our history, at our 30th Anniversary page.

    If you want to read more, there are several good books about Greenpeace: "The Warriors of the Rainbow" by Robert Hunter, "Journey into the Bomb" by David McTaggart, and "The Greenpeace Story" by John May and Michael Brown. They can often be found at used book and auction sites such as Ebay , Amazon and Powells.

    Who founded Greenpeace?

    There's an old joke around the organisation that in any bar in Vancouver, Canada, you can find at least one person who claims to have founded Greenpeace.

     

    In truth, many talented folks contributed to the creation of Greenpeace. Bill Darnell coined the name when someone flashed him a peace sign and he said "let's make that a green peace!" Bob Hunter created the concept of the "Media Mind Bomb" - reaching the public consciousness through dramatic, camera-ready opposition to environmental crimes. Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Irving Stowe were the founders of  the "Don't Make a Wave Committee," which organised the first Greenpeace action: a voyage to Amchitka Island in the Aleutians to try to stop a nuclear weapons test. David McTaggart convinced a half dozen loosely connected early groups to put aside their differences and join in a single worldwide organisation, creating Greenpeace International in 1979. Our main website contains lots more information about the founders of Greenpeace and our history and victories.

    Where does the name Rainbow Warrior come from?

    Bob Hunter, one of the founders of Greenpeace, tells a story in his book, Warriors of the Rainbow, about how this legend crossed his path.

     

    On the first voyage of a Greenpeace ship, the Phyllis Cormack, Bob had taken on board a small book of Indian myths and legends that contained some striking prophesies. The book itself had been given him by an old wandering native American who had told him the book would "change his life" -- something which prompted a bit of cynicism in the Canadian journalist, who tossed the book into a box and forgot about it. But he stocked the Phyllis Cormack with reading material for the voyage, and one stormy evening he said the book literally jumped off the shelf into his hands, and he read it.

    A chapter that particularly inspired Hunter related a story an old Cree Indian woman, 'Eyes of Fire' told to her great grandson. Just as they were being overthrown, The Cree Indian people foresaw a time when the white man's materialistic ways would strip the earth of its resources, but just before it was too late the Great Spirit of the Indians would return to resurrect the braves and teach the white man reverence for the earth. They would become known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.

    The story circulated in Greenpeace for many years, and in 1978 our first ship, a rusting North Sea Trawler named the "Sir William Hardy" was rechristened "Rainbow Warrior."

    How many supporters does Greenpeace have?

    As of January, 2007, 2.9 million had taken out or renewed their financial membership within the last 18 months. Our financial supporters are the people who keep our ships on the oceans and our campaigners in the field. There are also millions of people around the world who take action with us every day as online activists or local groups, or as volunteers.

    Where does Greenpeace get its funding from?

    To maintain absolute independence Greenpeace does not accept money from companies, governments or political parties. We're serious about that, and we screen for and actually send checks back when they're drawn on a corporate account. We depend on the donations of our supporters to carry on our nonviolent campaigns to protect the environment.

     

    Our books are audited every year, in every office around the world, and we publish our Annual Report on the web every year so you can see exactly how much money we're given and how it gets spent.

    Where can I find the address of the Greenpeace office in my country?

    There's a full list of countries where we have offices at our Worldwide Offices page. If there's no office in your country, you can write to .

    Why is there no Greenpeace office in my country?

    It is just not possible for Greenpeace to have an office everywhere. We receive many requests every day to open offices all over the world. Like any other organisation Greenpeace has to work within a budget and we have to make choices about what we do. Our campaign work is targeted against the greatest threats to the global environment.

     

    You can help us in many ways even if there's no office in your country. Visit Get Involved! page to learn more about what you can do every day to help Greenpeace win campaigns for the environment.

    I want to open a Greenpeace office. I want to represent Greenpeace in my country. What do I do?

    Opening a new office, or appointing a representative in a country in which we do not have an office, is an organisation-wide decision which has to be agreed upon by our International Board and approved by our international Annual General Meeting. Greenpeace does not adopt, incorporate or otherwise subsume existing organisations into its structure. Like every organisation, we have to work within our budget, and due to limited financial and human resources, we have to be selective in our decisions as to where to open new offices. Development or expansion is also subject to certain essential campaign criteria. We will only open a new office if this is in line with the strategic priorities of the organisation. Greenpeace has recently established two offices in Asia (in India and in Thailand). We are not planning to open any further new offices in the near future.

     

    The name "Greenpeace" is an internationally registered trademark belonging to Stichting Greenpeace Council in the Netherlands, and therefore use of the name requires permission. Once a decision has been taken to open a new office, Greenpeace International enters into a licensing agreement with the new office, allowing that office to use the name Greenpeace. Use of this name is conditional upon fulfilling a whole range of obligations towards the international organisation.

    We hope that you will not find this discouraging, and that you and/or your organisation will continue in its aims to explore environmental issues further. You can help Greenpeace in many ways - by volunteering your time or services to an existing Greenpeace office, or by getting involved as an online activist or joining our forum. You'd be surprised how much help we can use, even when an office isn't nearby.

    How is Greenpeace organised? Who runs Greenpeace?

    The Greenpeace organisation consists of Greenpeace International (Stichting Greenpeace Council) in Amsterdam and Greenpeace offices around the world. Greenpeace currently has a presence in 41 countries. Greenpeace national or regional offices are licensed to use the name Greenpeace. Each office is governed by a board which appoints a representative (called a trustee).

     

    Trustees meet once a year to agree on the long-term strategy of the organisation, to make necessary changes to governance structure, to set a ceiling on spending for Greenpeace International's budget and to elect the International Board of four members and a chairperson.

    Greenpeace International monitors the organisational development of Greenpeace offices, oversees the development and maintenance of our fleet of ships, coordinates planning and implemenation of our global campaigns, and monitors compliance with core policies.

    The International Board approves the annual budget of Greenpeace International and its audited accounts. It also appoints and supervises the International Executive Director who, together with senior managers, and consulting widely with national office staff, leads the organisation.

    Greenpeace does not solicit or accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties. Greenpeace neither seeks nor accepts donations which could compromise its independence, aims, objectives or integrity. Greenpeace relies on the voluntary donations of individual supporters, and on grant support from foundations.

    Greenpeace is committed to the principles of non-violence, political independence and internationalism. In exposing threats to the environment and in working to find solutions, Greenpeace has no permanent allies or enemies.

    To find out more about our Board and how Greenpeace makes decisions, visit our "How is Greenpeace Structured" page.